Today a coworker (let’s call her Sally, which is not her real name of course) found out that a friend of hers completed suicided over the weekend. Sally and I had spoken occasionally about depression, anxiety, and some of the struggles we’ve each faced with mental illness. I don’t recall offhand if we spoke about suicide, but I don’t think we did. I know I’ve given her the link to this blog, so maybe she’s read some of the posts where I’ve talked about it, but I can’t be certain.
When she left work she was in shock (of course), and in tears. And understandably so. I was able to catch up with her just before she left. I gave her a hug, and let her cry a moment. I told her to text me anytime if she needs to talk. I reminded her to just breathe – remember to breathe, because life gets super hard if your brain is overworking and under-oxygenated… which seemed to help her settle for the moment.
I’ve been thinking about Sally, her friend, and my own struggles all day. I’ve had people I know complete suicide, but no one super close. But I find myself in a strange headspace. As an empathic person, days like this can be hard – and today was definitely that. Part of me wishes I hand known this individual. Part of me wishes I could have known, or said something, or done something to prevent it. Part of me feels guilty for not being able to reach them – even though I didn’t know them.
And lurking under that is almost a trauma response, a flashback of sorts to when I was deep in depression, when thoughts of suicide were nearly constant every waking hour. And sometimes, those intrusive thoughts would even creep into my dreams. I alone know how close I came, on many occasions. Luck, God, my own stubborn self not wanting to completely give up, who knows… who knows why I didn’t actually go through with it when so many do.
For whatever reason, today, this person, this situation, has brought some of those feelings back. Not in the sense that I’m thinking about killing myself… but more so that I’m thinking about me thinking about killing myself. Part of me wonders how I managed to escape that hole. Part of me feels guilty for the intense turmoil I put people through in those times, even though no one really knew how close I was. But even though I didn’t, even though I kept that stuff inside, I know that it was hard for my friends and family to cope with me and my mental state. I can’t imagine how much harder it is for friends and family of those who do complete suicide.
I know I can’t save everyone. I know I shouldn’t feel guilt for not being able to “rescue” someone I didn’t even know. And I’m trying to just acknowledge these feelings and emotional responses, recognize that while they are valid, and allow them to drift without engaging them. I know that feeling “survivor’s guilt” isn’t entirely appropriate, but I don’t know what else to call it. But whatever it’s called, whatever this mess in my head is, I know it’s only a portion of what the true agony this individual’s friends and family are facing now.
Part of me just feels helpless and wants to comfort everyone, to mend the hurts, to dry the tears, to help them make sense of it – even though, yet again, it’s not my place nor responsibility. And I shouldn’t be taking it upon myself. But as an empath, who’s battled those particular demons many, many times, it’s hard to separate it all. And I know was pretty tired physically, mentally, and emotionally from a very busy weekend before this happened. So I’m aware that is just another layer that’s playing a role in my response.
I don’t know what else to say, other than putting thoughts down like this can help me release the tension and muddled chaos. And that alone helps. It doesn’t fix anything, it doesn’t instantly or magically change my emotional state – but it’s a form of therapy, and of healing that helps.
Hug your loved ones. Tell them you love them. You don’t know how much time any of us have left.
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